Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ballentine and Schlenker reflect and give thanks.

Jeff Ballentine and Todd Schlenker spent the month of July, 2011, in Spain.  We spent a few nights in Madrid on the front end of the trip and a few nights on the back end, visiting friends, museums and old haunts from 30 years ago, when I studied in Madrid as a college student.  During the three weeks in the middle, July 10-29, we did a summer course for Spanish Teachers at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, in the northern Basque country.  Our classes met every week day from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Our three professors were experts in the Spanish language, history, culture and methods of teaching.  We learned and shared ideas for teaching Spanish at all levels.  Our excursions took us to Pamplona for the running of the bulls and to several other regional attractions like Santillana del Mar, San Sebastian, San Millan de la Cogolla, Santander and Guernica.  Our Spanish improved tremendously, and we even learned some of the Basque language, known as "Euskera."  Being students helped us recharge our batteries and gave us new insights into the old and new dynamics that make Spain the country it is today.  We need to thank the USM Faculty Grant Committee for giving us the opportunity to study in Spain this summer.  Fifteen other teachers from across the US and Canada paid their own way because of the value these summer courses offer.  They were impressed that USM had the vision and resources to invest in its teachers in this way.  So again, MUCHAS GRACIAS, USM. 

The Spanish Embassy in the US and Canada invite teachers every summer to study in Spain at a variety of Spanish Universities throughout the country.  The AATSP works in conjunction with the Spanish Embassy to aid teachers in making the proper connections.  To learn more visit: and , or click on "cursos de verano" at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Friday, July 29, Student Presentations and farewell to Deusto

Marta, Mike, Nicole, Kevin, Irma and Stephanie

First of all, a big THANK YOU to our colleagues here who are taking this summer course for college credit.  These six teachers presented today as our three illustrious profes (pictured left) evaluated their presentations.  We all learned valuable tricks on how to present new information to students, including El Camino de Santiago (Marta), Vamos de pintxos (Mike), Las caras de España (Nicole), Puerto Rico (Kevin and Irma) and La comida del mundo hispano (Stephanie). 
The Director of our program in Deusto came today and addressed us all to listen to our comments and share her insights.  It is clear that Deusto is committed to finding ways to improve and grow an already excellent program.  She invited us as teachers to consider bringing pre-college age students to Deusto for specially tailored summer programs, like the one we just completed.  She promised to design the program to meet the developmental needs of our students, offering residence hall or home stays, courses geared for their level and fun excursions to outlying regions of northern Spain. 

After lunch today, we all begin to go our separate ways.  Jeff and I are off to Madrid, and by Sunday, the dorm will be empty, and all the workers will officially be on summer vacation for the month of August.  What a great summer so far.  El Pais, a Spanish newspaper, had a challenge to write a mini-story that relates why we love summer; in less than 140 characters.  Here's my attempt:

Yanqui nací. A Bilbao fui.  En Deusto aprendí; profes, pintxos, playas, historia, toros, cine, arte y jazz en bici.  ¿Un día, volver?  ¡A que sí!  Agur, Vizcaya.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thursday, July 28, Last regular day of classes

Music, poetry and the transiton to democracy

Begoña does her best to put us to sleep by beginning the class with a slow song by Rosanna, "si tú no estás aqui."   She wakes us up with "no dudaría" by Antonio Flores.  We grammar teachers really wake up when Begoña highlights the contrary-to-fact if clauses, contrasting them to the simple present / future tense clauses that make any sentimental romantic tear-up.  Connecting grammar and music is not new, but we are able to swap ideas and resources with the common Facebook page, linking us for future collaboration.   

The shortest short story in Spanish was written by Central American writer, Augusto Monterroso.  It goes like this:  "Upon awaking, the dinosaur was already there."  My translation is probably as good as the next guy's, but it sounds a bit more clever and nuanced in Spanish, which is another reason to have students read the original.  Today's topic in Francisco's class is how to select authentic literature in the L2 classroom.  Allow me to mention just one: it should be at the students' level +1, enough to hook them while also challenging them.  The examples, playful and thought-provoking, come from writers like Mario Benedetti and Gloria Fuentes.

Ana is our cultural attaché for today.  She explains, in a very engaging way, the transition to democracy, starting in 1975 with Franco's death, a referendum approving a Constitution In 1978, elections in 1979 and a failed coup in 1981.  There have been six national elections since, and either the PSOE or the PP wins.  The most dramatic elections coincided with the March 11, 2004 terrorist train bombing in Madrid that was attributed to Al Qaida.  Like all real democracies, like all real teachers, the transition toward our goals is always a work in progress.  Connecting, once again, the arts with the academics of everday life, Ana plays a touching song, composed after the train bombing, and an homage to the victims.  Called JUEVES, by the group, Oreja de Van Gough, it's hard not to cry.   It's a love song about two young people who ride the same morning commute, notice each other, always too shy to talk to each other, yet building that part of the relationship that precedes words.  The moment of finally finding the courage to exchange their first hello coincides with the terrible train explosion.  Enough said.